Holidays mean home gatherings centered around food, which means more people spending time in the kitchen. Vintage aprons are a fun collectible. Aprons used to be an everyday piece of clothing. If you watched family-oriented TV in the 1950s and early 1960s, you would think women never took them off, whether they were cooking or not. They are certainly practical — saving clothing from spills and spatters and providing a handy place to wipe dirty hands. Today, that function is taken care of with kitchen towels, usually hanging handily off the oven stove handle or draped over the edge of the sink.

The earliest records of aprons were from medieval paintings in the 1300s. “Apron” comes from the Medieval French word “naperon,” or “small tablecloth.” It was mispronounced as “an apron” in the 17th century. An Apron can be a part of uniforms or simply a fashion statement.

In the early 1900s, aprons were called pinafores, or “pinners,” because they were bib style that covered the chest and were fastened with pins. They often had ruffles.

We’ve seen racks of vintage aprons at antiques markets, ranging in cost from $10 to $100, depending on age, condition, fabric and design. We’ve also seen classic Simplicity and McCall apron sewing patterns selling at shows and online. They are popular because of their cover pictures, which offer a glimpse into another era, as well as the tissue-paper patterns inside.

Aprons fall into several different styles:

Cobbler’s aprons A high neckline, covers front and back, with ties or buttons at the side. Has pockets. Popular in the late 1950s and 1960s.

Party or hostess apron: A 1950s half apron. Often chiffon or organza with floral or other decorations. Also called a cocktail apron or party apron.

Half apron: An apron that ties around the waist with no bib. Usually gathered or pleated into a waistband.

Pinafore apron: Tied in the back at the waist and pinned to a woman’s dress at the bust. Commonly associated with a ruffled apron in the 1900s that little girls wore. Popular in the 1940s.

Full apron: Used to describe an apron that covers the whole front, not a half apron.

Crossback apron: Slipped on through the cross strings and sometimes had no other ties.

Handkerchief apron: Down-facing corners of the hem, much like a handkerchief.

Princess apron: A full apron with bib and skirt cut in one with no waist seam. Popular in the 1920s and 1930s.

Sweetheart Apron: Popular in the 1940s and 1950s.

Smock: More like a dress, than an apron. Can have sleeves. Popular in the 1930s for painting and gardening.

Chef’s apron: A traditional apron made in one piece with a straight “skirt” and bib. Goes over the head and ties in back with ties. Also called a butcher apron.

Ruffled apron: Embellished with ruffles.



map vintage apron

Half apron


full floral flower vintage apron

Full apron


floral flower vintage apron

Half apron with pockets


vintage full apron farm barnyard cow chicken american flag town village

Chef’s apron


vintage full apron chicken pockets

Smock apron


simplicity and mccall vintage apron sewing patterns

Three sewing patterns for various types of aprons from the 1940s and 1950s
Photos: eBay (tigertat426); Ruby Lane; eBay (theoriginalmillhouse)


One response to “Aprons: “Clean” Collectibles”

  1. suetue says:

    I’ve honestly never seen an apron or a pattern for one that didn’t have at least string ties at the neck instead of being pinned. That would seem awfully inconvenient for one of the most convenient pieces of clothing ever made.

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